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Preparing native Papuans for becoming agents of change

Preparing native Papuans for becoming agents of change

Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Jakarta Heather Variava and Head of Papua Human Resources Development Agency (BPSDM) Aryoko Rumaropen chatted with Papuan students who would pursue their undergraduate and postgraduate education at reputable universities in the U.S. (ANTARA News Papua/HO-BPSDM Papua)

The Papua administration is well aware of a significant role of highly-skilled and well-educated human capital in accelerating regional development programs in the province.

However, the quality of human resources in Papua remains left behind from many other Indonesian provinces apart from the flow of the central government's significant amounts of funds into it.

The scoring of human resources of Papua and its neighbor, West Papua, remained below the national average of 71.94 on Indonesia's 2020 Human Development Index.

According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), Papua and West Papua scored 60.44 and 65.09, respectively, on the 2020 Human Development Index. Their scores remained lower than Aceh province, which got 71.94 points.

In improving the quality of the province's human capital, the Papua administration provides scholarship schemes for native Papuan students to save them from dropouts, and to enable them to have a greater access to quality education.

This September, the Papua Human Resources Development Agency (BPSDM) has distributed scholarship funds to 1,436 native Papuan students currently studying at 12 universities in the city and district of Jayapura.

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As disclosed on the Papua Provincial Government's official website that ANTARA quoted on Sunday, the scholarship recipients are from poor families but they have good academic achievements.

The scholarship scheme is provided for native Papuan students facing financial problems to complete their higher education, Papua Governor's expert staff member for Special Autonomy, Triwarno Purnomo, said.

In dealing with their financial problems during their post-secondary education, several of the eligible scholarship recipients seek casual works to make money, he said.

Among the recipients are currently studying at such higher educational institutions as Cenderawasih University, Muhamadiyah University, Ottow Geisler University, and Port Numbay College of Economics (STIE).

Nine of the 1,436 scholarship recipients are currently taking up PhD Program, he added.

Meanwhile, Head of the Papua BPSDM Office Aryoko Rumaropen said the Papua administration has been offering the scholarship scheme for native Papuan students since 2012.

The total number of scholarship recipients is currently recorded at 1,884, he said.

They comprise 1,156 recipients who study at various universities in 19 Indonesian cities while 688 others are studying at 160 universities in 15 countries, Rumaropen said.

"This scholarship policy has become Governor Lukas Enembe's strong commitment to building Papua's excellent human capital," he said.

The presence of the highly-skilled ane well-educated native Papuans would hopefully contribute to the creation of Papua's better society in the future," he said.

In June this year, some 24 native Papuan students departed for Providence to pursue their undergraduate and postgraduate education at reputable universities in this capital of the state of Rhode Island, USA.

They all are awardees of the special autonomy scholarship scheme, according to Aryoko Rumaropen.

Prior to their admission at the selected universities, they firstly learn English to improve their language proficiency and knowledge about the American culture for one semester.

Several of them would get registered for the associate program at Highline College prior to their studies at the University of Rhode Island or Johnson & Wales University, he remarked.

However, several others could commence their studies at the University of Rhode Island as second-year students, he noted, adding that two of the 24 native Papuans would undertake postgraduate studies.

Shortly after graduating from their universities, they are expected to return to Indonesia to implement their academic skills in various development sectors in Papua, Rumaropen added.

"Papua Governor Lukas Enembe has promoted cooperation in the education sector with various universities in the USA to help improve the quality of human capital among native Papuan communities," he said in June.

Hence, on behalf of the Papua governor, Rumaropen thanked the Indonesian Government and US Embassy in Jakarta for having provided native Papuan youths with opportunities to study in the United States.

In response to the Indonesian Government's strong support for improving the quality of Papua and West Papua's human capital, Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University (UIN Syarif Hidayatullah) Rector Amany Lubis lauded the government's endeavors.

"The government's efforts to invest in education sector and human resources development will make Papua (and West Papua) better in the future," she said in a statement.

The government has equally provided Papua and West Papua with special facilities to improve the quality of their human resources as evidently shown by a variety of scholarship programs offered to native Papuans.

Thanks to the government's scholarship programs, such as LPDP, Bidikmisi, and affirmative actions for secondary and post-secondary education, they get better access to quality education, she said.

The Papuan students could pursue higher education in various areas of studies, including anthropology, mining, engineering, social and cultural sciences, and religious studies.

"These efforts are aimed at preparing native Papuans for becoming the agents of change," said Lubis who became one of the speakers at the "Understanding Papua Series #1" webinar last July.

She suggested that the efforts need a synergistic collaboration between the central and provincial governments in promoting sustainable regional development in Papua and West Papua.

By doing so, the whole communities' welfare could be improved so that their quality of life could also be improved. In this regard, local wisdoms are necessarily adopted to boost the regional development programs to make the outcomes better, Lubis suggested.

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